R' Yitzhak Yosef Lighting First Hanukkah Cand
R' Yitzhak Yosef Lighting First Hanukkah Cand The Western Wall Heritage Foundation (courtesy)

Wednesday night, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz conducted the traditional Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel).

The ceremony was also attended by major government officials, including Interior Minister Gidon Saar, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Chief Rabbinate Director Oded Weiner, and Harel Locker, Director of the Prime Minister's Office. 

Rabbi Rabinowitz noted that this is the closest lighting to the actual site of the miracle, the Temple Mount, where the oil miraculously sustained the Menorah for 8 days. Rabinowitz cited the location - and the event's popularity - as a symbol of the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel, a connection which unites the Jewish people under one collective home. 

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef stated, "The Hellenists' drive was to cause Jews 'to forget their Torah' and ultimately 'to prevent them from following Your [Divine] will,'" referencing the traditional prayers added to the daily services during the holiday.

"We have to strengthen our connection to Torah - that is the message of Hanukkah," he stated. 

Housing Minister Uri Ariel spoke about the importance of building Jewish communities in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, both to preserve Jewish identity in general and to prevent infiltration of the Land of Israel by other populations. 

The Director of the Prime Minister's Office spoke about the connection the Jews have to the Western Wall in particular, and Israel in general - which the Maccabees fought for, and won. 

The Director of the Chief Rabbinate connected the holiday with this week's Torah portion, the story of Joseph and his brothers. The sale of Joseph, he said, demonstrates the need to fight our innate tendencies to divide ourselves into factions and unite as a holistic body - the Jewish people.

Afterwards, a smaller ceremony was also held at the Little Western Wall or Small Kotel, which is in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. 

Crowds at Western Wall Hanukkah Candle Lighting Western Wall Heritage Foundation (courtesy)

Housing Minister Uri Ariel lighting a Hanukkah candle at the Western Wall Western Wall Heritage Foundation (courtesy)

R' Yitzhak Yosef, R' Shmuel Rabinowitz, and government officials at Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony Western Wall Heritage Foundation (courtesy)
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